The Winter Update: A Startling Look Ahead

2021-12-29

Header Art by Major Sniper

The past six weeks or so have been a period of tremendous upheaval in New Eden. As EVE Online heads towards twenty years old, there have been ebbs and flows with the quality of gameplay over the years. Generally, CCP makes changes, there is emotional debate about it, and then we figure out how the new system works. We adapt; we move on. The storm settles, and life continues on its merry way. This time, however, it seems that the enacted (and upcoming) changes are leaving too many questions for the greater community.

WINTER STATUS YEAR-IN-REVIEW

In November, CCP Games dropped a bomb on their subscribers with the introduction of many changes to raw material gathering, billed as ushering in the so-called ‘Age of Prosperity’. This was widely perceived as nothing more than a ‘mining nerf’. Changes to refining skills, the rework of mining crystals, and adjustments to almost every mining hull caused massive blowback. Moreover, the overwhelmingly negative response to the waste/residue changes has overshadowed any positives that are within the current rollout.

Traditionally, the Winter Status Update is a chance for the developers to communicate their vision for the next year. This time, however, the blog felt heavier on the ‘accomplishments’ of 2021 and light on the outlook for 2022. Battleship revamps in the works and a possible tweaking of citadel mechanics aside, the whole article was more worrisome than comforting.  CCP stating that they’ll be ‘looking at sovereignty’ made many a null-sec resident’s hearts skip a beat in fear of yet another FozzieSov debacle. Social media outlets instantly exploded with speculation and worry about the future of New Eden.

CCP Games has since placed the compression change on hold until 2022 for more testing. Furthermore, they held a Q&A session on their Twitch channel, moderated by Carneros (leader of The Bastion alliance). Many players hoped that the livestream would be a chance to iron out some of the misconceptions. Yet more within the community held out hope that this was CCP taking the opportunity to listen to their subscribers.

Let’s Do a Livestream

CCP asked Carneros, a respected member of the EVE Online community (and a former CCP employee) to moderate the livestream. Many were excited for the chance to hear CCP Rattati (Director of Product), alongside CCP Swift and CCP Paragon (both of the Community Team) discuss the current/proposed changes with the community-at-large. Carneros reached out to players via a myriad of EVE-related Discord servers, and tried to put together a question list for the livestream on short notice.

The livestream chat was overwhelmingly negative during the entire broadcast. One criticism that presented itself was regarding CCP Rattati’s use of the term ‘dungeon’ (an industry term used to describe an instanced or sectioned-off section of content within the greater game world, usually for player vs environment, or PvE, content). Chat exploded with accusations that Rattati was intending to turn EVE into a PvE game without risk. Carneros, however, later discussed this over-reaction on the Sunday morning ‘DOWNTIME’ stream (hosted on Twitch by the author of this article). He felt it was an unfair and unnecessary attack, considering the greater problems that were presented during the Q&A.

Data Manipulation

One of the most disturbing portions of the livestream was the presentation of graphs supposedly supporting the findings of CCP Games. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are used to decide what areas of EVE Online need to be adjusted (i.e., ‘nerfed’ or ‘buffed’) in future updates, and measure if their current goals are being met. The first graph shown was presented as proof that their campaign against Rorqual use was ‘working’. The graph purportedly provided evidence that there was more diverse use of mining hulls thanks to ‘scarcity’. 

Many of us viewing the livestream, however, saw the graph for what it really was; a tremendous drop-off in Rorqual usage with little increase in the diversity of mining hulls being used. If anything, it highlighted the fact that there has been a significant reduction in the number of raw materials being mined throughout New Eden over the last year and a half. The slight up-tick in mining over the past few months has more to do with the end of the Beeitnam War than it does with the changes implemented by the developers. CCP Rattati, however, claimed it as a win that scarcity had the desired effect of ‘depleting stockpiles’ of raw materials and capital ships, and thus helped to rebalance the health of the in-game economy.

Q&A Becomes Dodge & Weave

Scores of viewers in chat were now in a frothing rage. Many of Carneros’ questions were side-stepped or openly dodged. I consider most of the EVE Online playerbase to be of above-average intelligence, and even I felt like we were being talked down-to by the panelists. I understand that many aspects of game development must be kept classified during the development lifecycle. To state that you are going to hold a livestream with your subscribers as an opportunity to present a more open, lasting dialog moving into 2022, and then simply using it as a platform to justify the changes implemented over the past year, was insulting. 

When will dreads become affordable again? We can’t say. Will Bounty Risk Modifiers (BRMs) be reviewed? No, they’re working as intended. If the BRM in your area is too low, just dock up or move somewhere else until it recovers.

Two questions that Carneros asked stand out as glaring examples of this egregious disconnect between CCP and the player base. First, in response to CCP Rattati’s statement that the BRMs and scarcity have worked to limit the ISK faucet used by RMT botters that violate the Terms of Service, Carneros asked what CCP envisioned players doing to generate ISK in the wake of such drastic changes to the financial landscape. The second question related to anticipation of new ship hulls/designs we could look forward to. Both questions were met with dead air and stares or non-answers. CCP Rattati’s fixation on navy battleship hulls while so many other ships are imbalanced is akin to Nero fiddling as Rome burns.

Where do we go from here?

Looking forward into 2022 is like staring into a fog bank filled with large, lurking shapes. They could turn out to be the monsters our imaginations usually jump to when it comes to the unknown, damaging our entertainment and desire to continue playing. Or, we could simply be overreacting, and the changes that will come with the latter half of New Dawn will bring about a new, more balanced style of play. The problem we keep running into, however, isn’t necessarily one of lackluster game-balancing by our friends at CCP; it is the abysmal communication disconnect between CCP and the players, and the subsequent lack of trust, that is causing problems.

I asked Carneros what would have made the New Dawn Quadrant more palatable. He suggested that a two-phase rollout would have been more successful. First, add in the ‘prosperity’ phase (200% to the various raw materials, etc.). This would allow players to get excited over the holiday break. We could get a feel for the ‘end of scarcity’ as a tangible, realistic event. Then, in a month or two, dial back if/as needed… but communicate it ahead of time with clear and concise goals. Simply put, a definitive end to scarcity, a visible beginning of prosperity, and then tweak as necessary for fair and balanced gameplay.

WRAPPING UP

The Winter Update and farcical Q&A livestream demonstrate a continued disconnect between CCP Games and the overall playerbase. It is this writer’s opinion that the main problem we are experiencing right now has little to do with game mechanics. In EVE Online, there MUST be an open line of communication between the ‘residents’ of New Eden and CCP. In most other MMOs, this isn’t exactly necessary. Here, however, it is REQUIRED for the continued health and success of the sandbox. 

EVE Online has a very unique culture amongst PC gamers; we are a breed apart. We can all agree that we expect better communication. CCP has a responsibility to the players to protect the legacy that we built together. That all starts with clear and solid communication. The Winter Update and Live Q&A failed to live up to those standards. As we move into the third decade of EVE Online, the future demands better dialog.

New Coronavirus variants and restrictions. Economic struggles and a changing dynamic of the workplace. Global supply chains still in recovery mode. New Eden tends to be the last (and occasionally best) refuge of happiness and social interaction for thousands of hard-working, good people. Clear, open dialog between the developers and subscribers does (and will) have far-reaching effects into peoples’ lives; more than just within the game itself. The excitement around FanFest 2022 is proof-positive of that. Here’s to hoping that the keynote address in Iceland will help to heal some of the rifts we’re experiencing now. Happy holidays, stay safe, and I’ll see you in 2022.

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Comments

  • Guilford Australis

    All these poor decisions originating from CCP’s obsession with ‘balancing the economy’ have already killed the sandbox and will eventually kill EVE. Every time players find something they like to do, CCP swoops in to murder it. You know, for our own good or whatever.

    Go figure that when you ‘balance’ a game by dragging it back to the mechanics and expectations of 2006 you’ll get pre-2006 login numbers as we’re currently observing.

    December 29, 2021 at 3:17 PM
  • Noob

    Something is either unique or it isn’t, it can’t be “very” unique.

    December 29, 2021 at 3:34 PM
  • RH

    Hilmar is now talking about NFTs. What a parody this company has become.

    CCP is leaving an untended goal for another sandbox scifi MMO to make it. I wonder if anyone is going to take the shot.

    December 29, 2021 at 7:50 PM
    • Geitzeist RH

      We can only hope. The profit potential for a true EVE killer has grown steadily by the year. And no, that’s not ever going to be Scam Citizen.

      December 30, 2021 at 1:34 PM
  • Romulus Loches

    I agree, much of the current turmoil is caused by the disconnect between the players and the developers. As players, we want to enjoy the game and see it succeed. My hope is that we can fix the communication and be excited about the future of Eve.

    December 29, 2021 at 9:01 PM
    • Garreth Vlox Romulus Loches

      The disconnect between the players and devs is less important than the disconnect between the actual game itself and the devs. We are talking about a company that owns and runs a game that most of their devs and workers have no serious experience playing. Just watch a dev try to PVP, they die so fast and so hilariously badly it’s clear they never actually play the game which prevents them from ever understanding it. You can tell just from his attitude shitatti has NEVER ONCE actually mined the mins he used to build things to try out the industry side of the game, he just spawned himself mats on a test server built some stuff and decided he was an expert.

      December 31, 2021 at 12:55 AM
      • At the same time, the handful of devs they do have with in game experience tend to introduce things that everybody hates.

        December 31, 2021 at 2:14 AM
        • Garreth Vlox Really?

          I would think that is because their experience is very limited to a certain play style and takes nothing else into account when making changes. The new PVE beacons are the perfect example, someone with ZERO actual nullsec experience thought “hey let’s get caps out in space where they can be risked for a pay out and possibly killed in exchange” They then took in no other aspects of the game into account AT ALL, and devised the new anchorable trigger item for the capital PVE sites. Had they spent even 10 seconds thinking about other game mechanics and ships interacting they’d have immediately spotted the concept of people using a character in a carrier to warp to a belt, anchor the item, trigger it and then run it by themselves or with friends in rorq alts so they can lock up a rock and use panic modules to stay safe till back up can arrive.

          December 31, 2021 at 3:21 AM
        • I was going to say exactly this: CCP’s AT-commentator game design hiring spree was fairly disastrous for the game in spite of those people being “experienced EVE players.” All they did was screw up the ship meta and somehow make sov mechanics worse.

          January 1, 2022 at 1:08 AM
  • I maintain that most of this stupid bullshit– overabundance, scarcity, the rise of instanced PvE– all traces its roots back to CCP’s fundamental fucking up of the ship meta. Why is PvE only practical in heavily-restricted instances? Because CCP has stuck their heads in the sand for a decade now and insisted there’s nothing wrong with covert-hotdrop gameplay. Why was the mining meta all about Rorquals under a supercapital / FAX umbrella for the longest time? It wasn’t just that Rorquals mined the most, it was because Rorquals with PANIC were the only ships that could tank a hotdrop long enough to call for help. Literally anything else you put in a belt gets one-vollied by torp bombers in less time than it takes for a FAX– even one already in-fleet and waiting to jump– to load grid and start repping.

    The game needs to go back to the days where teleportation was unusual and ships were balanced. No more bomber fleet bridges. Not so many casual titan bridges. No more gatecamp-immune tacklers (or gatecamp-immune ships in general). A return to a somewhat-linear scaling of ship attributes / capabilities with hull size / mass. Only when the limitations of geography are back in place– and when both attackers and defenders need to put valuable ships at risk in order to accomplish their goals– will playing EVE feel satisfying again.

    CCP’s compulsion to enable lazy gameplay has killed any sense of balance in the game. Guilford talks about “dragging the game back to 2006 and getting a commensurate PCU count,” but in reality it’s worse than that. At least back in 2006 you had a sov system that– while hellaciously high-effort– was interesting, and you had actual open-world PvP to hold your interest in between strategic conflicts. I’d personally take 2006 EVE mechanics over today’s any day of the week. CCP have introduced to many classes of “cheater” ship that bend / break core game mechanics to enable lazy gameplay that the game doesn’t feel like it forces you to make meaningful choices anymore, and isn’t that really what makes any game fun? Trying to make good choices and solve problems?

    December 29, 2021 at 11:56 PM
    • Garreth Vlox Ganthrithor

      “Literally anything else you put in a belt gets one-vollied by torp bombers in less time than it takes for a FAX– even one already in-fleet and waiting to jump– to load grid and start repping.”

      Back before they shit all over the game with the local blackout I used to solo hunt mining barges in a special fit SB, they could have the fax ON FIELD with a max tank fit on the barge and I could still kill them before the fax could lock them or if they were dumb enough to be out of range. People use rorqs because the chances of you mining enough ore at the prices you get post mining nerf era in a barge before the barge gets killed are way to low to be worth the risk.

      December 31, 2021 at 12:52 AM
  • kwnyupstate .

    CCP like every other company thinks they need to constantly change things to keep people busy even if those things were working perfectly fine.
    Leaders in the company get big egos and think they need to make something their own and don’t listen to the players.
    They are scared the players will take advantage of information because players actually know the game so don’t consult them and then break things.

    December 30, 2021 at 6:09 AM
  • Geitzeist

    Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, about EVE Online has ever made sense from a real-world perspective. Just one small but annoying example: the color of space is determined by which empire controls it. Think about that. You never leave Gallente space? Hope you like blue-green. We have clear indicators of who controls a system in the upper left so why is it like this? System space should be colorized by some pseudo-scientific factors like sun type. Big ships can’t effectively target ships of two classes smaller than themselves. Why? They would have the best sensors possible, probably *better* than tiny ships that can’t carry massive, high-power detection gear. A personal favorite: ships that clearly couldn’t fit inside any structure and which are bigger than the docking bays. Is every dock also a TARDIS? CCP made a game that’s fundamentally absurd, all to support a completely unscientific space fantasy. They could introduce spell casting as this point and I wouldn’t be surprised.

    December 30, 2021 at 1:56 PM
  • Garreth Vlox

    “CP Rattati, however, claimed it as a win that scarcity had the desired effect of ‘depleting stockpiles’ of raw materials and capital ships, and thus helped to rebalance the health of the in-game economy.”

    This guy seems to be the kind of dumb you can’t teach.

    December 31, 2021 at 12:48 AM
    • Taxea Garreth Vlox

      Just the oposite will happen: more stockpiling before ccps next bullshit comes around.

      January 1, 2022 at 12:09 AM
  • I won Eve about the time Blackout was foisted upon the game. I have been waiting for the day CCP un-fucks itself and I can be motivated to play again. The real tragedy isn’t that the game might actually be dying this time. The tragedy is the level of human achievement and potential being wasted by people who thing they need to reinvent the wheel instead of just changing the tires.

    December 31, 2021 at 2:21 AM
  • chthulan

    Yes, the perma-tinkering leaves me wondering what the game is for any more. Each time I log in, it seems, they’ve messed with ( (mostly removed or diminished) something else that I find useful in-game.

    CCP should just leave it alone and allow changes to settle in for six months or, a year – at least.

    Not for the first time in recent times, I’m considering quitting – after 12 years as a player. Thanks CCP.

    January 18, 2022 at 8:04 AM